The Papers H. N. Brailsford (1873-1958)

Scope and Content

The papers include correspondence files many of which relate to his career as a war correspondent, journalist and political academic as well as more personal letters to his family. These files include correspondence on the Spanish Civil War 1936-9; correspondence concerning Brailsford memorandum on German neutrality, 1949-50 and correspondence regarding India 1946.

The collection also includes some early photographs dating from 1903 when Brailsford was on a relief mission to Macedonia, as a member of the Balkan Committee and photographs from later trips to India in 1931 and Russia in 1920, along with some family pictures. These will be transferred to the People's History Museum.

There are also transcripts of historical, literary and journalist articles written by Brailsford as well as the manuscript of his book The Levellers and the English Revolution , 1961.

The collection does contain some published material; a Leveller pamphlet dated 1649 (a gift from Harold Laski to Brailsford), A Greek New Testament, a Latin dictionary, a Greek Lexicon, and a complete works of Plato. These along with the earliest archival item in the collection, Brailsford's philosophy notes from Professor Caird represent Brailsford, the classical scholar.

The collection also includes correspondence and other items belonging to Brailsford's German born wife, Eva Maria.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Noel Brailsford (1873-1958) was the son of a Methodist minister. Although born in Yorkshire, he was raised and educated in Scotland, where his father had congregations in Edinburgh and Glasgow. At Glasgow University, he studied classics and philosophy under the distinguished scholar Gilbert Murray, who was to remain a friend and mentor throughout his life. Abandoning an early academic career, he started his long life as a writer and journalist. However, like Ernest Hemingway, he wished to experience history at first hand and joined Philhellennic Legion in their struggle against the Turks and saw combat in the disastrous Thessaly campaign of 1897, where he was wounded.

This interest in Greece and the Balkans was to remain with him for the rest of his life. He was to report for the Manchester Guardian on the military situations in Macedonia and Crete in 1899 and at the front in the Balkan war of 1912. He was a prominent member of the Balkan Committee and led a relief mission to Macedonia in 1903. In 1913 he was appointed to the Carnegie Commission of Enquiry on the origin of the Balkan Wars. At the end of his life he took an active interest in Tito's Yugoslavia.

His interest in the Balkans led him into contact with the exiled Russians, which included Lenin, Trotsky, Kropotkin, Miuluikov and Theodore Rothstein. He fully supported the Russian Revolution and was an early admirer of the Soviet Union, although his later views on it became somewhat equivocal. He particularly did not agree with their curtailment of freedom of expression. He was never a member of the Communist Party.

Brailsford's politics were never revolutionary and more of the persuasive Socialist kind. He joined Glasgow Fabian Society as a student and was to remain a member all his life, writing pamphlets and lecturing at summer schools, although never becoming involved in its inner circle. He was more prominent in the ILP and edited the Party's journal, the New Leader from 1922 to 1925. He managed to raise its circulation by covering a wide range of subjects written by a number of distinguished authors. However he failed to eliminate a continuing deficit and was dismissed. When the ILP disaffiliated from the Labour Party, Brailsford did not go with them.

Brailsford maintained a lifetime concern for international peace and disarmament and was a long-time opponent of imperialism. At the end of both the First and the Second World War he advocated more considerate terms for Germany than was appreciated by the victorious powers. He was a member of the Union of Democratic Control. He was a very active supporter of the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil war. His opposition to the a Spanish communist political party POUM led him into conflict with George Orwell. The Labour Party's Advisory Committee on Imperial Questions also sought his advice. He maintained an interest in India and corresponded with Indian nationalists and visited India in 1946.

His classical education meant he had a wide interest in the arts and history. He had a long relationship with the artist Clare Leighton and wrote books on Shelley and Godwin. At the end of his life he was working on a history of the Levellers and he was corresponding with young left wing historians, like EP Thompson and Christopher Hill.


The papers have been arranged into two parts. The correspondence, press cuttings, broadcasts and other items have been file listed, where possible under a subject. Other files, such as the broadcasts have been classified under the dates (HNB/1-119) The manuscripts have been listed separately (HNB/MSS/1-117) These include the manuscript of Brailsford's book, published posthumously, The Levellers and the English Revolution . There are also many manuscripts of articles and broadcasts that date from 1912 to 1950.The collection is file listed. There is an item list after the complete file list of files HNB/1-25.

Access Information

Access by appointment.

Acquisition Information

In 1990 The Labour Party Archive and Library moved from Walworth Road, London to join the People's History Museum (formerly National Museum of Labour History) in Manchester. The Brailsford papers are now held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, which is based at the the People's History Museum.


Collection level description created for the Archives Hub by Janette Martin.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue of the Brailsford papers is available for consultation at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents. Prior written permission must be obtained from the Archive for publication or reproduction of any material within the Archive.

Appraisal Information

Some items have been destroyed. These are duplicate, some damaged and inconsequential material.

Custodial History

After the death of Brailsford's German-born widow, Eva Maria in 1988, Michael Foot recommended that the Brailsford papers should deposited with the Labour Party. Prior to deposit Professor F. M. Leventhal used them extensively in his biography of Brailsford.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

H. N. Brailsford are found in the Labour Party Archive (LP), and there is also correspondence between Brailsford and R Palme Dutt, 1922-45, in the Communist Party of Great Britain Archive (CP/IND/DUTT). Both of these collections are held at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre.

Brailsford letters can be found in a number institutions including correspondence with the ILP, 1908-28 at London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science; correspondence with Sir BH Liddell Hart, 1939-49, at King's College London: Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives; letters to the Manchester Guardian, 1897-1951, Manchester University: John Rylands Library, Oxford Road; letters to Gilbert Murray, 1892-1956 Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts and correspondence with Society of Authors, 1947-54 at the British Library, Manuscript Collections.


Leventhal, F. M. The Last Dissenter : H.N. Brailsford and his World, (Oxford : Clarendon, 1985)

Brailsford, Henry Noel, The Levellers and the English Revolution edited and prepared for publication by Christopher Hill. (London : Cresset Press, 1961).